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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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CPS CPS Program Links

Data on absences from work

The monthly household labor force survey, or Current Population Survey (CPS), has two monthly measures that show the number of employed people who missed work during the survey reference week.

  1. People who did not work at all in the survey reference week
  2. People who usually work full time but were at work part time (1 to 34 hours) during the reference week

The survey is not designed to capture all instances of missed work, see important limitations of these data described below.

 

1. Employed people who did not work at all in the survey reference week

The CPS provides data on the number of people who had a job but were not at work for the entire survey reference week. There are many reasons why employed people are not at work for an entire week. BLS tabulates data on employed people not at work whose main reason for being absent was vacation, own illness, childcare problems, other family or personal obligations, labor dispute, bad weather, maternity or paternity leave, school or training, civic or military duty, and other reasons. (The other family or personal obligations category includes people taking care of a sick family member.) Vacation and a personís own illness are typically the most common reasons people are not at work.

Time series data for employed people with a job not at work by selected reason are available using the links below:

Total with a job not at work Total Men Women
  Own illness, injury, or medical problems Total Men Women
  Vacation or personal days Total Men Women
  Weather affected job Total Men Women
  Labor dispute Total Men Women
  *Reasons other than illness, vacation, weather, or labor dispute Total Men Women
* This category is the sum of the following reasons: Child care problems, other family or personal obligations, maternity or paternity leave, school or training, civic or military duty, and other reasons.

The time series for people with a job but not at work is available from the online database back to 2003. One can approximate a longer time series (back to 1994) by combining data for people not at work who usually work full time and usually work part time.

Learn more about the limitations of these data.


Labor force classification of people who did not work at all in the survey reference week

Depending on the reason they missed work, some people who report that they are temporarily absent from work are not classified as employed. For example, people who missed work due to vacation, parental leave, or bad weather are classified as employed (with a job, but not at work). However, people who were temporarily laid off and expecting recall (and available to return to their job if recalled) are classified among the unemployed on temporary layoff. People who do not have a job, including those who permanently lost their job, are classified as unemployed if they are both available for work and actively looking for employment. (People on temporary layoff do not need to look for work to be considered unemployed.) People who are not employed and do not meet the criteria to be unemployed (for example, they arenít looking for work or they are not available to work for reasons other than their own temporary illness or they do not expect to be recalled from their layoff) are classified as not in the labor force.

 

2. People who usually work full time but were at work part time (1 to 34 hours) during the reference week

The CPS also provides a measure of the number of people who usually work full time (35 hours or more per week) but were at work part time (1 to 34 hours) during the survey reference week. Depending on the reason provided, these workers are then grouped into those at work part time for economic or noneconomic reasons. Economic reasons include working reduced hours due to slack work or business conditions, seasonal work, or starting or ending a job during the week. Noneconomic reasons include illness, vacation, holidays, schooling, childcare problems, other family or personal obligations, labor dispute, bad weather, and other reasons. (The other family or personal obligations category includes people taking care of a sick family member.)

See monthly tables A-25 through A-28 for information about people at work part time for economic or noneconomic reasons. In particular, table A-25 shows many of the specific economic and noneconomic reasons.

Time series data for employed people who usually work full time but were at work part time during the survey reference week by selected reason are available using the links below:

Main reason at work less than 35 hours
At work 1-34 hours, usually work full time
    Economic reasons
        Slack work or business conditions
        Seasonal work
        Job started or ended during the week
    Noneconomic reasons
        Child-care problems
        Other family or personal obligations
        School or training
        Vacation or personal day
        Holiday (legal or religious)
        Weather affected job
        *All other reasons (including own illness)
            Own illness, injury, or medical appointment
* This category is the sum of the following reasons: Own illness, injury, or medical appointment (available as a separate time series); labor dispute; civic or military duty; and other reasons.

 

Limitations of these absence measures

The survey is not designed to capture all absences from work, and these measures do not reflect all cases of people who missed work during the month. The two measures refer to work missed only during the survey reference week. The survey does not provide information about other weeks of the year.

The data on people who miss part of the week are restricted to instances where people who usually work full time (35 hours or more per week) worked 1 to 34 hours. Thus, a person who usually works 50 hours per week but missed 8 hours would not be included in this measure since they still worked more than 35 hours. Also, this measure does not reflect work missed by people who usually work part time.

 

Last Modified Date: July 24, 2020